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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for July 16
By Maria Korolov and Amira Loutfi
Did you know that Amazon has a list of the top-selling and free sci-fi and fantasy books?
The list changes constantly — authors set their books to free temporarily to promote their work, and, of course, books move up and down in the rankings. But are any of the books actually worth reading? Well, I read the first few chapters of each to find out, so you don’t have to.
This week’s list is completely different from those of the previous weeks. So if you’re a fan of free books, it looks like there are going to be new things to read all the time.
I’ve noticed that if you try to open the list on a mobile device, it will take you to the listings that cost money, instead. I’ve found that by switching to the “desktop site” in the mobile browser, the free list comes up.
Oh, and if there’s a book that catches your eye, grab it quickly, since the books are often free for only a short time. And, Amazon allows you to lend your e-books, for free, to your friends. Even free e-books. Here are the instructions.
Most of these books are the first book in the series, and in each case, I’ve checked to see whether the rest of the books are free as well, or whether they’re in Kindle Unlimited. Learn more about Kindle Unlimited here.
The list is accurate as of the time of writing but may have changed since the story was posted.
1. Ink Witch by Lindsey Sparks
This is the first book in the six-book Kat Dubois Chronicles urban fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres. Book with kick-ass women on the cover are my preferred book cover. Leather pants are one of my favorite style choices. Not personally, of course — leather pants are unwearable in real life. Hot, difficult to put on, and they make a loud noise when you walk. Plus, they have no stretch, so you can’t really kick ass in them. But they look good on book covers, is what I’m saying. If they ever take a picture of me for a book cover — say, after I embark on my next career as an international ninja assassin — I plan to wear leather pants. Of course, if I’m on the cover of a book, it means that my secret will be out and I’ve been arrested. Mental note: when the cops show up to drag me to prison, ask them to wait a sec so I can change into some leather pants and a leather jacket, so when they parade me, handcuffed and defiant, in front of the news cameras, I’ll look cool.
But I digress.
Kat Dubois is a retired immortal god assassin who owns a tattoo parlor and occasionally reads cards for a living. Wow! This could be me some day!
So, Kat is a god of time. Specifically a demigoddess, descended from an ancient Egyptian god.
Then, during a reading for a client, she discovers that the pictures on her cards have changed. They now all depict her friends and relatives.
Then an old friend shows up, another demigod, Nik. After a friendly fist-fight, Nik tells her that her mentor and half-brother Dom has disappeared. Nik is thousands of years old, the oldest of their kind, the closest thing to a god left on Earth. And he smirks. I hate people who smirk. That means that there’s at least a fifty-fifty chance Kat and Nik are going to end up together, even though he annoys her. I hate that. If he annoys her, kill him and be done with him, that’s what I always say. Mental note: ask my therapist about why I always say this. Second mental note: never mind, don’t ask my therapist, mine this emotional wound for stories instead.
Then a cop shows up, asking for her help finding some missing homeless kids. One of Kat’s magic powers is finding people, and she’s occasionally been known to help the police as a psychic. But she’s going to be busy looking for this guy Dom, so she turns the cop down.
I kind of like her. She’s deadly, which is appealing. I don’t like that she tolerates having that annoying Nik hanging around. The annoying-guy-turns-into-lover trope is one I can do without, but it seems to be almost a must-have in the urban fantasy genre. Can’t a girl just go kill people without having all the mushy stuff get in the way? No? Okay then.
Would I read this book? If the rest of them were in Kindle Unlimited, definitely. As it is … maybe.
Update: I read the book. It was awesome. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, just let me say that the one thing I want kiss-ass women protagonists to do that they never do — Kat does. Or pretty darn close, at any rate. One thing I’d like to add, though, is that while reading the book I kept getting a lot of backstory that seemed to imply that there’s other books out there that came before. I looked it up, and there are three books, the Echo Trilogy, a time-traveling romance with Egyptian gods. The same author also has other series, and a LitRPG book, Allworld Online: Pride & Prejudice. I just picked up my copy.
2. Forbidden Planet by Cheree Alsop
This is the first book in the three-book Rise of the Gladiator series. The other two books are $4.99 each but are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Kove is on a prison planet and is desperate to escape. There’s a riot in the prison, and he steps in to save the life of one of the guards, a woman. He’s got some cool armor that is able to block bullets — but not electric shocks. He’s a gladiator, and his previous owner sold him to settle a debt. He’s 28 years old, and now that the guards know that he’s got this ability to stop bullets, they don’t want him, and sell him at a discount to Captain Nova, a woman who’s one or two years younger than him.
She reluctantly turns over the money. It’s a little bit more than she wanted to pay, but she needs a gladiator for security. Feels a bit guilty about how much she paid, but as they leave, it turns out that the money is counterfeit and they have to run for it.
Then he saves the ship from a mutiny by some other slaves. Kove steps in when one of the other slaves attacks another woman on the ship. Apparently, these slaves have been promised a new life if they help Captain Nova, but they decide that taking her ship from her is a faster option. Kove is injured in the fighting, but pulls through.
The action is over the top. You can tell that Kove and Captain Nova are eventually going to get together, but the story is from Kove’s point of view, so it actually doesn’t bother me too much.
Kove gets his own suite on the ship, and the electroshock handcuffs get taken off.
The premise is ridiculous, but there’s a lot of fighting. Captain Nova seems to be on some kind of mission that keeps getting her nearly killed. I like it. Plus, I see that the other two books in the series are in Kindle Unlimited. Now I like it even more.
3. Under a Tell-Tale Sky by R.E. McDermott
This is the first book in the three-book Disruption Trilogy series. The other two books are $2.99 each but are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
There’s an EMP attack — that’s an electromagnetic pulse that kills electronic equipment.
At the time of the attack, Dan Gowan is an engineer on a ship at a marine terminal in North Carolina. He chews tobacco and is looking forward to his upcoming vacation so he can try to work things out with his ex-wife. Then the sky lights up and all the electronics around them die.
Meanwhile, Levi Jenkins is on the road with his wife, Celia, when he sees the sky light up. He immediately tells his wife to call her parents and tell them to get the kids to safety if the power goes. She thinks he’s paranoid with all his end of the world stuff, but she makes the call. Then all the transformers blow up and cars start crashing all around them.
So, okay, he’s a doomsday prepper who’s been proven right. Not a good sign.
But when he and his wife try to help other people hurt in accidents, and actually take a couple of injured women home before heading to get their kids. Because Levi’s vehicle doesn’t have electronics in it, so it still runs. His wife is happy that they were able to help, but Levi warns her that this isn’t going to be the way it’s going to, because the world’s is now a crueler place, and he’ll do whatever he has to do to make sure his family survives.
Then we are at the White House. It’s the third day of the apocalypse. Turns out, there were some massive solar flares, and sixty percent of US high voltage transformers are dead. It will take years to replace all of them and restore power. But they’re mostly manufactured overseas and those countries will probably want to fix their own infrastructure first.
The federal government is still functional — there are plenty of shielded backup generators and radios. But it’s bracing itself for massive global unrest, especially in the hardest-hit northern hemisphere.
There are plans to rapidly convert manufacturing facilities, especially those located close to nuclear plants, to start manufacturing transformers. But with the expected fuel shortage, hits to the global supply chain, there will be massive food shortages and millions of people may die due to violence, lack of medical care, and lack of supplies. The FEMA stockpiles aren’t going to be nearly enough. They’re going to nationalize power plans, manufacturing facilities, and the larger agricultural companies, call in mercenaries to keep civil unrest down, and set things up so that state governments take the blame for all the crazy stuff that’s going to happen. Very Machiavellian.
The book is extremely readable, engrossing, and fast-paced. My problem with it is that I don’t like any of the main characters. They all seem to be reacting to the situation badly. In my opinion, at least. But I do tend to be very judgmental.
4. The Corpse Whisperer by H.R. Boldwood
This is second book in the three-book An Allie Nighthawk Mystery series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
This is technically the second book in the series, and that concerned me until I read that the first book is actually a prequel. Since the first book costs money, I’m not going to do what I usually do with these reviews and read the first book first.
Allie Nighthawk has a talent for raising the dead. It’s her only talent, so that’s how she makes her living. And after she’s raised the dead and her clients are finished with them, she puts them back in their graves so they don’t wander around as zombies.
That’s the same setup as the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series.
And Allie also works for the Cincinnati police, raising the dead for them so they can ask who killed them.
But a couple of months ago, something bad happened, and she’s decided to stop playing around with dead people. I guess that’s where the prequel comes in.
Anyway, the police need her help again. But first, she doesn’t wanna. Second, even if she did, she has a firm rule against raising murderers or children, and in this case, the cops want her to raise the corpse of a murderer. She explains to the cop why she won’t raise murderers, and the reason makes zero sense. Something about the dead becoming zombies that have to be put down. I can see not wanting to put down a child zombie. But putting down a murderer zombie doesn’t seem that bad. Anyway, the cop plays dirty. A child has been kidnapped and the murderer knows where she is. The cop shows Allie a picture of the little kid.
The little kid has freckles. Allie can’t say no to freckles.
So she gets dressed for action. Black khakis — finally, someone who doesn’t wear leather pants. She does wear a black leather duster, but I’m fine with that. She also carries an army knife and a nine-millimeter semi-automatic, and rides a Harley.
She easily raises the murderer from the dead and gets the little kid’s location. Then the zombie takes off running. She tells the cop to get the girl — she can handle the zombie. Then she falls into a grave, hits her head, and sprains her wrist. She can’t shoot her gun. But she can hot wire a backhoe.
The story is funny, fast-paced, and over the top. Allie is a mess with no personal skills and a glorious lack of common sense, but I like that about her. Looks like I’ve found my weekend reading.
5. Doormaker: Rock Heaven by Jamie Thornton
This is the first book in the four-book Doormaker series. The other two books are $2.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I don’t see any weapons on the woman on the cover and there’s no fire shooting out of her hands — but wait, is she wearing two belts? If one of those belts is holding up her cargo pants, maybe the other one is for a knife or gun holstered at her back.
Maella has grown up knowing that she must never, ever, ever open a door. One of her cousins opened the door of a medicine cabinet and been sucked into a starry void. Her aunt opened her glove compartment and been killed by a swarm of bees. Her uncle, house-sitting for a neighbor, opened a fridge and a tiger dragged him into a jungle.
Turns out, Maella is younger than she looks on the cover. She lives at home with her mother and grandmother and brother, doesn’t go to school like the other kids, and is picked on by bullies.
During a fight with the bullies, Maella accidentally opens a door and she and her best friend Claritsa fall through into another world. They’re in a cave with a giant monster. They are able to hide from the monster, who leaves the cave and terrorizes the local village. The villagers are mad that Maella and Claritsa woke up the monster, and don’t believe Maella when she says that they came through a door. They make her open a drawer in a table and flames burst out. Now they know that she’s a doormaker, but it isn’t going to help her. They execute doormakers. The villagers lock up the two girls and plan to kill them in the morning.
Meanwhile, a third kid has come through the cave before that door was closed, a boy who defended Maella and Claritsa against the bullies. And he’s going to try to help them escape.
This is a pretty fast-paced book, which I like, and reads well. The story pulls you in. I don’t usually read young adult fiction, but I might come back and finish this book.
6. OOF by Strobe Witherspoon
This is the second book by the author of Furtl, a dystopian satire released in 2013 that was a best of the year selection from Kirkus Reviews.
From Maria Korolov:
The idea is that a former first lady releases a tell-all book about her years of misery with her much-older husband, the president of the United States. The book was released just this past April, so I’d lay heavy odds that the author is talking about Melania Trump.
But wait! The tell-all book is just a piece of fiction, a satirical novel by author Strobe Witherspoon.
The tell-all is about to be published and there’s a lot of online speculation about whether Witherspoon has inside knowledge and his allegedly fictional satire is actually based on reality.
OOF is the story of the online outrage that ensues.
OOF is currently the number one best seller on Amazon’s “political fiction” category and in “general humorous fiction” and in “satire.” Now I understand why the cover doesn’t look much like a sci-fi or fantasy book — it’s not. Why is it on this list? Maybe because the author’s previous book was about a dystopia?
Let’s open it up and see…
It starts out with a first-person account by the former first lady. She’s an immigrant who speaks five languages, but unlike our actual former first lady, while avoiding her annoying husband she’s into painting, philosophy, and history, and managed to get a second master’s degree and become an artist, with her own gallery show. Then the show was canceled ahead of the primaries. Then a tragedy of some kind happens. What tragedy? Reading on!
Then we switch to a first-person account by the author of that anthology about Strobe Witherspoon’s book. So we’re up to two narrators, neither of whom are Witherspoon. This narrator says that Witherspoon is now gone and all we have left of him is this project. The project being a collection of news articles, blog posts, tweets, emails, and so on. So what happened to Witherspoon? Reading on!
Then we switch to a news article about how Witherspoon sold his satirical book, that fictional memoir by the former first lady. Then the next article mentions a foiled attack on the president, and the possibility that the first lady was involved. Was Witherspoon’s fictional satire really about that event? Then we get a transcript of an online video, in which a right-wing vlogger talks about a leaked chapter, from the fictional satire, in which that former first lady writes about pegging her husband — who she just filed for divorce from. The vlogger accuses Witherspoon of treason for writing the book, particularly for the part where he implies that the president has a relationship with a shady crime syndicate.
Then we get online posts, podcast transcripts, Twitter threads… this book is like a jig saw puzzle where you’re putting together lots of random little pieces to figure out what actually happened.
Is it worth reading? Absolutely. It is sci-fi? I’m 15 chapters in, and I still don’t see any sci-fi or fantasy elements here.
7. Lasting Love Series by Susie McIver
This is the first three books of the six-book Lasting Love series. The other books are $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Don’t be put off by the cover. That’s just the cover for the box set. The book covers for the individual books themselves look very professional. That said, if you guessed by looking at the cover that these are romance books — you’d be totally right. Also, the “lasting love” in the title is a dead give-away.
These are mostly stand-alone style books focused on different members of the same family, with some magical or time travel elements.
From Amira Loutfi:
Poppy has faerie magic, and she used it recently to rob a den of thieves. When she arrives home she decides she must run away because there are strange men in her house. The whole thing looks turned upside down. And she thinks they must be looking for the artifacts that she stole from them. She only narrowly escapes when she magically summons a barbed wire fence between herself and the mysterious intruders.
The title of this book is “Owner of his heart” so I’m assuming that the artifact they want is some ancient muscleman’s enchanted heart? She decides to go to her friend Jami’s house, who might also be in danger. There, she warns Jami that they can’t tell anyone about what happened — because the police and “the professor” are in on it.
Apparently, these men have been chasing Poppy and Jami for a while, but never showed up at their homes before. Poppy explains that they can’t tell anyone else about what happened — wait, why? Wouldn’t it be safer if their families knew that the police and strange men were after them? This turn of events seems like it might necessitate coming clean to their families and friends.
So they run away to a hotel for a week, and then reflect on their families and love lives. Poppy says, “Yeah. Unlike her, I hate having magic. Because of it, I can never fall in love. How would I tell him I have faerie magic? I’ve already decided I can never marry.” This line is awkward, but it does its job. One thing that I really appreciate about this book is that we haven’t wasted any time in building up the plot. First, we have a survival thread, and now we see the beginnings of the relationship thread.
While I am enjoying the fast pace, I still don’t understand why they can’t tell anyone.
This world has a lot of magical girls who are all taught to hide and minimize their magic. However, ever since Poppy threw up a wall between herself and the thieves, she has been thirsting to explore her magical skills. Jami warns it’s too dangerous.
There are a lot of grammatical errors and typos in this one. Just a fair warning.
8. Forbidden Mortal by Randi Rayl
This is the first book in the four-book The Bone Gatherers series. The other books are $0.99 to $2.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited
From Amira Loutfi:
The names of the characters are bizarre — Eztlie is a man, Tlalli is the woman he loves, and there was a shaman. It’s stormy, Eztlie’s lover is dying, the wind and Eztlie are both howling — Eztlie in prayer and the wind, just howling like wind does. Tlalli is looking REALLY bad. She’s got pus, smells rancid, and is breathing shallow. She has a NASTY wound on her stomach and the “healers” left a long time ago. Damn.
Then the “Bone Gatherer” shows up. And Eztlie is all like “no.” But Tlalli is also like “no” — and by that she means no to her love, Eztlie, and yes to the Bone Gatherer. She is dying, guys.
Eztlie has a mohawk! He also has soldiers. He was gone with them when Tlalli got this horrible wound. I wish the story would take place just in this world. I will read deeper to find out for you guys.
The first chapter seems a bit like an urban fantasy again. Sophia is a hospice nurse and one of the nurses is — guess what?! A hot man. Ok, I should’ve seen that coming. Sofia next sees a mysterious male nurse in one of the patients’ rooms. And he is also… drum roll… a hot man. So now there’s two of them!
But then a black mist comes out of his hand! Nice. And it goes to the patient. He suddenly realizes Sophia is watching him and he yells at her. Yikes…
Ah, and his name is Mr. Teotl. Good.
And his first name is Eztlie — excellent! So I guess this old king is now working as a hospice care nurse. But why is he setting black mists out on Sophia’s patients? There must be some explanation but I’m not curious. I like how Eztlie is acting like a caveman as Sophia shows him around. It sort of reminds me of Zeid from 90-Day-Fiance.
I think that sexual tension is a big part of this book. There’s a lot of work drama going on here, involving the boss, her boyfriend — who is gorgeous — the other male nurse, and now Eztlie, who can’t stop staring at her. Sophia is too boy-crazy for me.
I am done with this one.
I’ll be getting back to Alpha’s Duty, haha. That one was surprisingly good.
9. The Revelation of Light and Dark by Sawyer Bennett
This is the first book of the five-book Chronicles of the Stone Veil series. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
So I love the cover. It makes me think this might be as cool as a Game of Thrones book. Hmm … It seems a bit like a paranormal romance though. And the prologue opens with an ordinary woman and a very attractive, evil man. She is scared of him, but only he can save her. Even though he’s evil. Hmm …
Now we will see how our protagonist got to be in his presence. The story starts a few weeks before the bizarre encounter I described above. She lives a bland life in a Cape Cod-style house built in the 40’s.
She lives with a bunch of friends and there is a love-triangle or two. I’m not really interested in that. There’s too much normal, day-to-day stuff going on … I’m skimming this. She owns a coffee shop. She loves her car. There’s too much of this normal life stuff. Please. Please!! Finally — a strange evil-looking man comes in to the coffee shop.
So apparently, in this world, there is a “them.” Our protagonist can sense that some people will kill with pleasure — and just being around them makes her sick. She has struggled with her mental health and her father was known in town to be a bit crazy. Maybe they have the same sense?
I think people might enjoy this if they like to imagine themselves as the protagonist.
10. Alpha’s Duty by Lola Gabriel
This is the fourth book of the five-book Code of the Alpha series. The other books are $2.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
So the prologue lets us know that this story is about a wolf family that is riddled with secrets. They hide from the general population, and they only fraternize with their own pack. The parents have secrets they won’t share with their children. I feel it’s a little weird how many children there are, actually. Anyways…
I think there are five of them, and their names are Cole, River, Kodiak — adorable!, Wren, and Scout. Very cute names for wolf-people. They try to tell their parents they are in danger one night and the parents don’t listen. Later, someone burns their old farmhouse down. The boys make it out safely, but they lose their parents. River, the youngest, reacts in a way that was surprising for me, but satisfying.
So I really appreciate this prologue because there is a lot of tension and drama. And it’s good drama. Can our dear author keep it up?
Dr. Ferren Daniels is called from the dentist’s office to the emergency room, where she helps to bring a woman back to life. It’s a tough day and she cries. Her friend with benefits comes by and she rejects his advances. Then, on the ride home, she hits something. She gets out of her car to check it and lo and behold … Blood is splattered all over the car and the road and there is a bloody trail where the animal ran off.
So what I like about this so far is that it’s making me wonder which member of the family will show up where in Ferren’s story. I also wonder what the parents’ secret was. Do they have extra powers? Did they plan the fire?
My oh my. It’s a dangerous world and it seems like the brothers became more and more beastly after they split up.
This story does include the trope where powerful wolf-people have to keep hidden from humans. It is definitely absorbing. I am enjoying it. If you got a hankering for wolf-people in a dangerous urban fantasy world, then you’ll enjoy this.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].